The fusion of echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) was identified as a transforming gene for lung cancer in 2007. This genetic rearrangement accounts for 2%-5% of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cases, occurring predominantly in younger individuals with adenocarcinoma who are never- or light smokers. A small-molecule tyrosine-kinase inhibitor of ALK, crizotinib, was rapidly approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on the basis of its pronounced clinical activity in patients with ALK rearrangement-positive NSCLC. Next-generation ALK inhibitors, such as alectinib, LDK378, and AP26113, are also being developed in ongoing clinical trials. In addition, the improvement and validation of methods for the detection of ALK rearrangement in NSCLC patients will be key to the optimal clinical use of ALK inhibitors. We here summarize recent progress in the development of new ALK inhibitors and in the molecular diagnosis of ALK rearrangement-positive NSCLC.
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